If you run a business that serves customers locally, you are most likely familiar with local SEO and the struggles of ranking highly for location-based keywords. Organic traffic to your website is one of the best and most cost-efficient ways to acquire customers.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is how you acquire that traffic. With local SEO, your site must be well-optimized toward buyer-focused, localized keywords that people actually use to search for businesses like yours in your area.
It also has to be authoritative enough that it will rank for those keywords. Here is a guide on how to rank for valuable, location-based keywords.
Plan the Site with Keyword Research
First, perform keyword research with tools like Google Keyword Planner, KeywordTool.io, or Ahrefs. Taking a plumbing company in Denver as an example, you will want to determine which keyword has the most search volume and most relevance to your business.
By plugging in different keywords into a tool like Google Keyword Planner, you will be able to find out whether a keyword like “Denver plumbers” or “Denver plumbing companies” has more search volume.
Next, determine the site hierarchy. One primary keyword should be selected to be the focus keyword for each page on your site. The homepage is the page that typically receives the most backlinks, and, therefore, the most authority and ability to rank highly in search engines.
If you are a local business that serves customers in one city, you should optimize your homepage toward your most important keyword, which for a Denver plumbing company would be something like “Denver plumbers.” If you are a multi-location business that serves more than one city, you should have separate location pages optimized toward each city or area served.
#1. Optimize the URL
It’s best practice to have short, keyword-rich URLs. When writing URLs, it’s also best to use lowercase letters and dashes, rather than underscores.
For example, location pages for a Colorado plumbing company that serves multiple cities in Colorado, including Denver and Colorado Springs, could be:
#2. Optimize the Title Tag
Perhaps the most powerful ranking element on a page is the title tag. The title tag should include the primary keyword (or key phrase) and describe what the page is about.
To make sure that all of the words display correctly in the search engine results pages (SERPs), title tags should be less than 65 characters.
A sample format for the homepage of a plumbing business is:
[Your City] Plumbers | [Name of Your Business]
An example would be:
Denver Plumbers | Acme Plumbers
#3. Optimize the Meta Description
The meta description is another description of the main focus of a webpage. Here you can elaborate a bit more beyond what is said in the title tag while including your primary keyword and a call-to-action. To ensure that it displays correctly in search engines, make the description fewer than 156 characters.
This meta description format works well:
[Name of Business] are the best [City] plumbers. Get in touch today for a free plumbing quote.
An example would be:
Acme Plumbers are the best Denver Plumbers. Get in touch today for a free plumbing quote.
#4. Optimize the H1 Heading
The H1 heading should be placed near the top of the webpage and should sum up what the page is about. The H1 heading should include the primary keyword (or key phrase). Remember to only include one H1 heading per page.
A good format for a plumbing company webpage H1 heading is:
An example would be:
#5. Optimize the Body Content
400 words is a good minimum for the amount of copy on each page, but there should preferably be more, because this will allow you to rank for the widest range of location-based keywords possible.
Whether you’re doing SEO for plumbers, roofers, or lawyers, the copy should completely cover the topic and be as descriptive as possible. The homepage should provide the most important info about your business, including the services offered, and include a call-to-action.
The primary keyword should be included at least once in the initial paragraph of the body content. Variants of the primary keyword should appear a few times throughout the rest of the copy. Including a contact form or a call-to-action (with a phone number or email address) somewhere on each page is essential for maximizing the number of leads received.
#6. Optimize the Alt Text of Images on the Page
Images are a quality signal for search engines. Every page should include at least one image. The alternative text attribute, also referred to as the “alt text” or “alt tag,” appears in the HTML of the image and should be a brief description of the image. Including the primary keyword that that page is targeting is beneficial for ranking for that keyword.
Use Structured Data
LocalBusiness Schema allows you to mark up important elements like the business name, address, and phone number and helps search engines understand the meaning of the content on the page.
Each location landing page of a multi-location business should include LocalBusiness Schema markup in the HTML. This will, in turn, help the page appear higher in Local Search results.
Ensure the site is mobile-friendly
Google wants to provide search results with good mobile experiences to its users. Be sure to view all of your site’s pages on a mobile device to ensure they are mobile-friendly and load quickly. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing page allows you to see if your site’s pages are compatible with mobile devices.
Make sure the Page Speed is Fast
Page speed has been a ranking factor in Google for a while, but they have recently announced that their Core Web Vitals, which include more specific measurements of page speed, would become a ranking factor in May 2021.
Claim, Verify, and Optimize your Google My Business
As important as it is to rank highly in the organic search results for location-based keywords, it is equally important to appear highly in the local search pack. An essential part of optimizing your website for the local search pack is to visit google.com/business and claim your Google My Business profile.
A verification process will follow where Google will mail a postcard with a PIN to the physical address of your business that you listed in your profile. You will then enter this PIN into your Google My Business account to verify the business.
After verifying your profile, optimizing it for the local search pack is next. This involves adding as much detail as possible about your business into your profile. Add your business’ logo, a complete description of your business, hours of operation, relevant categories, types of payment accepted, and any photos of your business and its services or products.
Acquire Citations in Online Directories
A highly important ranking factor in local search listings are citations in online directories. Business information consistency and citation volume are key. Prevalence and consistency of citations is key.
The more citations the business has and the more consistent the business’ name, address, and phone number is across these listings, the better the business will do in local search.
Here you will find a list of the top 50 citations for local businesses in the US. Be sure to remove any duplicate citations of your business when you come across them, because these will lower your local search rankings.
Encourage Online Reviews
Review signals (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) are one of the top factors in Local Pack ranking, according to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors. You can email customers asking them to check out your Google My Business page where they can leave a review. This will allow you to receive reviews consistently.
A backlink is a hypertext link on one website that points to a page on another website. Links from trusted, authoritative websites are often considered to be the strongest ranking factor in search engines. Backlinks pass authority to your site.
Think of links as votes for your own site. The more useful your own content is, the more websites link to it (or ‘vote’ for it), increasing your site’s authority and rankings. If you increase backlinks to your site from relevant, authoritative sites, you will improve your site’s keyword rankings in search engines.
To increase the backlinks to your site, you can do the following:
- Obtain links by claiming listings in your local Chambers of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau
- Mention other industry-specific businesses, people, or events in your blog and let them know that you have mentioned them
- Get in touch with websites that you have a relationship with (your equipments’ manufacturers sites, associations, etc.) and ask for a link to your site
- Respond to queries relevant to your industry on HARO or SourceBottle
- Pitch guest posts to websites in your industry
- Replicate your competitor’s backlinks with backlink monitoring software
- Share your content on your social media properties. If a social media post is shared a lot, you can often gain the attention of webmasters who will link to your site.
SEO can be challenging, but adherence to a proper strategy will take you a long way toward more organic traffic. By utilizing the principles outlined in this guide, you will be much better equipped to rank for location-based keywords that are valuable for your business.
Jim Milan is an SEO Project Manager for Genuine Parts Company. He has over 8 years of experience optimizing websites from a wide variety of industries, including law, insurance, and eCommerce.